I have been on the UCSB Club Tennis team since the beginning of my freshman year. I never paid attention to the number of balls our club team alone uses. We currently use about 36 balls every 2-3 weeks. On top of the club team, UCSB also has a men’s and women’s D1 teams, Exercise Sports classes, intramural tennis, and many people who like to come out and play on their own with their friends.
I was shocked to learn that out of the 300 million tennis balls produced globally every year, about 125 million are thrown away, ending up in landfills in the United States. And did you know it takes about 400 years for a tennis ball to decompose? These stats make tennis one of the most wasteful sports in the world.
After learning these facts, I became frustrated thinking about how much waste players at UCSB were producing. I looked into ways we could recycle our tennis balls and was ecstatic when I came upon recycleballs.org. Having already collected over 2 million balls, Recycle Balls seemed to be a reliable source. The organization takes the donated balls and grinds them up in a machine that separates the felt from the rubber. The material is then used to build tennis courts, make natural rubber mulch, for the bases of signs and to replace stucco. Recycle Balls is also currently in the process of trying to partner with Queen City Sports Shoes and Clothing Line to repurpose the rubber for the soles of shoes.
I applied to their QUICKSHIP program which provides organizations with 10 cardboard bins and prepaid shipping to and from the Recycle Balls facility in Vermont. I spoke to the Director of Facilities for UCSB’s Recreation Center and got the go-ahead to move on with the bins. I spoke on the phone with Jeremy Rayburn, Client Success Manager at Recycle Balls, to discuss the placement of the bins on campus and shipping. Later that day I received an email saying the bins were on their way!
The bins were shipped to my personal address. They were smaller than I had anticipated, but that meant they would be easier to build and ship. Some of the club members helped me fold and place them on our UCSB courts. We are hoping to send our first bin back to the facility within this month--since I have been saving all of our old balls since the beginning of fall quarter. The club team is also happy to announce that we are the official sponsors of the QUICKSHIP program at UCSB.
In order for you to get involved, go to recycleballs.com and apply to one of their programs. The process was easy and fast, and will make a difference for as we decrease the amount of waste produced by tennis!